Sunday, February 06, 2011

Puerto Vallarta - Dec 27 to Jan 3, 2011

"Honey, my flight has been cancelled" is not what you want to hear from your other half when you are ready to start part 2 of your Christmas vacation. It is hard enough we don't see each other often (Los Angeles - Montreal) and on top of that we must endure a delayed caused my mother nature? There is really nothing you can do but to go along for the ride.

Arrived in Puerto Vallarta, via Los Angeles, on a beautiful Monday afternoon, and for those wondering if what they say about taxi drivers in Puerto Vallarta it is true, yes it is. You have two options once leaving immigration, as soon as you come out you will see a big kiosk with TAXI written on it, those are the white taxes that will take you to your destination for at least 40% more than the yellow taxis. How to find the yellow taxis? Just come out completely from the airport terminal, pass those Taxi kiosks and then you will see a pedestrian bridge on your left hand side. Once you cross over you will find as many yellow taxis as you want.

Xmas and NYE is the high season in Puerto Vallarta, actually that is true anywhere you want to go, and my expectations were everything was going to be busy, and it was but not as much as in previous years according to some locals. Regarding accommodations a fellow Montrealer help us to find the almost perfect place in the area called Conchas Chinas, which is considered by many as the Beverly Hills of the city, and let me tell you once you walk around the area you will understand why.

Conchas Chinas Hotel had mixed up my reservation and instead of getting me a Studio with a king size bed and a jacuzzi in the balcony facing the ocean, got a room with 2 queen size beds, misunderstanding which was promptly resolved and I was ready to start my one week vacation in this tropical paradise.

My studio was perfect in almost every way, except the fact their hot water tank was not big enough to take care of all their guests when all rooms were booked, perhaps this is something they could invest money on, even if they believe it is not necessary because most of the time you don't need to take a hot shower in PV right? The view was just breathtaking, and there was nothing like going to bed and waking up in the morning with the sound of the waves splashing in the sand and rocks right below your balcony. Never ming having a bubble bath in the jacuzzi while the famous and colourful sunset occurs right in front of your eyes.

There is also a restaurant at the bottom of the hotel, facing the ocean, which is very popular with locals on the weekend, from there we had the chance to see a school of dolphins that had decided to stop by and play one Sunday morning.

Why Puerto Vallarta? I have heard many good things about this city, and it was time to get my own opinion of this place, and also because I wanted to feel some warm sun in my skin. Could had been any other place in Mexico, but PV was the chosen place, the gay mecca of Mexico.

First I decided to explore the city by walking towards Old Vallarta (Zona Romantica), and in any city the best way to get to see it is by getting lost, and this is exactly what I did. Somehow I ended up in this street called Basilio Badillo where there are many art galleries, and on Friday they have this open house (6 to 10pm) when they offer music, cocktails and conversation. Very impressive art display by the different galleries (Banderas Bay Trading Co., Galeria Puerco Azul, Coleccion la Bohemia, Lucy's Cucu Cabaña, A Touch of Gold, Galleria Dante, Ambos Galeria, Contempo Galeria, Sarafina, Ponciana, Sirena and Cassandra Shaw Jewelry) and a good way to spend an evening in town.

When doing your research in what to do in PV, you will find several tour operators offering Canopy tours, and my advise is book one, and if you want to save some money, don't book your tour at the concierge of your hotel, while you are walking around town you will most likely find of their location and just go inside, the chances are you will save around 20% of the quoted price by the hotels. Many operators to choose from: Canopy River (the longest zip line), Xtreme EcoAdventure (the Predator movie set), Rancho Capomo, Cerro Verde Expeditions and more.

Soon you will also realize the closer you are to the water the more you will pay for your food, and there are many wonderful places where you can enjoy your seafood, tacos, burritos, cocktails, beers and whatever else you feel like eating or drinking. The best burritos and tacos I had while in PV where the ones made by the street vendors around town. I know, some people would be scared to try them out, but let me tell you something, there was nothing like eating those tacos right after a night of dancing, or even having them before going dancing.

Cost wise Puerto Vallarta is not as affordable as other cities in Mexico, many times I found myself paying prices similar to what we pay in Montreal, then you think how the locals survive if their cost of living is higher than in other Mexican cities? Local business have found a formula, not the best but it is kind of working for them. Many clubs will have posted their cover charges for both locals and tourists, and there is a big difference between both prices. Obviously the further away you are from the touristic areas, the cheaper everything becomes.

Honestly, and I know I will probably get angry emails about what I'm going to say, Puerto Vallarta does not have beautiful beaches, most "playas" are rocky and with thick sand, what they do have is beautiful scenery. Your eyes can wonder for hours by just looking out to the Bahia de Banderas, and if you are in the water you will probably appreciate the beautiful view of those houses and hotels built on the rocks. Most of the constructions have incorporate the natural landscape in their design, and what a super job they've done.

It is funny how the dress code changes in the main beach area, ranging from the normal North American shorts and bikinis, to the more European/Brazilian/Australian Speedo very common in the gay beach area, which is located right in front of the Blue Chairs Hotel, and it has also expanded to the green chairs area. If you walk inland from this beach, you will find the "gay village", where all the boys stroll down the street as if they were in Castro, Chelsea or the Montreal Village.

The boardwalk is beautiful and love the fact they have added different sculptures all along the beach, perhaps one thing the city of PV could do is to extend this boardwalk. One more thing, isn't the beach owned by the government? and if this is true, shouldn't all beaches be accessible to everyone specially to the people of Puerto Vallarta? Close to my hotel there was this beach called Playa Estacas, really beautiful but unless we were willing to fork USD 105.00 (day pass) to the Dreamas Hotel we would only be allowed to admire it from behind the fence.

On the Malecon you will find tons of tourists, artists, cafes, bars, restaurants, overprice jewelry, and more. We did stop by one called Cheeky Monkey, where drinks range from one or two dollars, not a bad deal with such a beautiful view of the bay. If you walk towards the hills, you will sweat trying to reach the top, but will be rewarded with an incredible view of the bay, and if you are lucky enough, you will be able to see whales and their cubs.

If you can't live without a dépanneur (convenience store), you will rapidly find the OXXO closest to your hotel, they are everywhere in the city. I also recommend visiting the Vallarta Flee market in town, probably all vendors get their goods from the same distributor, but it is worth a visit specially if you are looking for "that" souvenir to bring back home, and I must admit I felt in love with some hand-blown glassware.

Many times walking back to the hotel, we had to stop and admire the sunset, such a beautiful explosion of colours combined with the natural beauty of the ocean, life is beautiful. Too bad I did not have the chance to do some scuba diving, not because I did not want but because I had some minor ear infection while in PV.

What about the night life? The city is definitely establishing itself as a gay mecca in Mexico, and there are many options available for the different clientele that arrive in the city in a daily bases. We wanted to spend New Years Eve in a more Mexican way, so we went where most of the locals where, to this club called "Paco's Ranch". The night before we had found this place, and the door man was nice enough to let us in to check it out, then an ultra friendly waiter took us under his wind and next thing you know we had a drink in our hands. We arrived a bit passed midnight, because we were told the locals would start arriving until later, and it was a great party, the deejay was just okay, very commercial oriented music and lacking a bit in the remixing skills, but we had a great time.

The day after we decided to hit the club of the clubs in Puerto Vallarta, the one called Club Mañana, and if you want to party in Puerto Vallarta as if you were in New York, Los Angeles, or Montreal, then this is the place to go. Deejay Oren Nizri (Israel) was in charge of the music, and he really worked the crowd (and perhaps even better than the diva Offer Nissim) , but what will really grab your attention is the beauty of this place, from the very Spaniard colonial style entrance, to the pool in the middle of the atrium, to the water fall coming from another lounge area on the roof of the club, the place is just beautiful and the crowd will dance all night long until sunrise, until mañana for many. Definitely worth checking this place out.

There are many other activities to choose from in Puerto Vallarta, from driving up to the Botanic Garden, to taken boat tours around the bay, or dinner shows in an exclusive island off the coast, or even hiking or horseback riding, it all depends on what kind of vacation you want to have.

Finally, make sure to give yourself extra time when going back to the airport for your flight back home, not because of the traffic but because due to the lack of x-ray machines, all luggage must be searched manually by security before check-in.

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